No decision yet on D2 superintendents

Deliberations continue over who will be permanent dual executives

It’s still not entirely clear who will lead Harrison School District 2 (D2) next year and beyond.

The district board deadlocked March 21 over a 2-2 vote to name current interim Chief Operating Officers Wendy Birhanzel and John Rogerson the permanent dual superintendents. The team took the helm following the May resignation of then-Superintendent Andre Spencer, and its members are two of the three finalists for the shared job. Elizabeth Domangue, an associate professor at the University of Northern Colorado and a former D2 administrator, is the third.

Choosing the next pair has been an arduous task that included a national search, private interviews, meetings with a selection committee, a public forum, and a second round of board interviews. The four members of the school board, charged with making the final decision, grew emotional they spoke about the challenges of making the decision.

“You come down to three candidates and you look at the strengths of all three, and you go, ‘Wow, I wish we could smoosh them all together and get the best of all worlds,’” board vice president Linda Pugh said. “There are great strengths to all three candidates.

“You come down to where you have to think about, ‘Well, who might be the best paring? Which two would compliment each other the best?’”

That value judgment weighed heavily.

“These kids are me,” board secretary Jeannie Orozco said, her voice clogging with tears. “They are little kids of color who haven’t had opportunity in life, and that’s me. When I look at these kids, I see myself: I see lack of equality, lack of leadership. How do I take all of my life experiences and my leadership and invest that to move (the students) forward?

“I don’t want anyone to think we make any decisions lightly,” she continued. “Every day, the decisions we make are going to affect our students’ lives … their whole lives.”

Kelly Pomis, the treasurer of the board, has a child in the school district.

“In 10 years, my child, who is a kindergartener, is going to be a junior,” she said. “This weighs so heavily as we think about the 11,000 students (in the district) and their futures today, tomorrow, 40 years from now.”

The deadlocked vote – Board President Steven Seibert and Pugh supported the Birhanzel/Rogerson pairing while Pomis and Orozco voted against – means the district’s leadership will remain as-is pending further deliberation. Regardless of the outcome, Seibert expressed hope that whomever is not selected will play an active role in the district well into the future.

“There was very, very little that separated any of the three of them,” he said. “They all have areas of opportunity, strengths beyond measure and puzzle pieces that were very difficult to weigh.”

“You come down to three candidates and you look at the strengths of all three, and you go, ‘Wow, I wish we could smoosh them all together and get the best of all worlds.'” – Harrison School District 2 Board secretary Linda Pugh

 

MEET THE CANDIDATES

Birhanzel has worked at the district for about a decade. An expert in urban education and curriculum development, she is the co-chief operating officer at the district and is in charge of elementary schools, finance, curriculum and instruction, among other responsibilities.

She earned a doctorate in educational leadership in urban school settings from the University of Southern California, and she put that education into action here while serving as principal of both Centennial and Wildflower elementary schools.

Rogerson is the chief of secondary education, operations, human resources and student support services, among others, and co-leads the district with Birhanzel. The 14-year D2 veteran brings experience in the classroom and the boardroom, having been principal of both Fox Meadow middle and Giberson elementary schools.

He holds a superintendent certificate from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs; a master’s in educational leadership from Capella University and bachelor’s degrees from UCCS and Northeastern Illinois University.

Domangue, 40,is an associate professor at the University of Northern Colorado but has deep roots within the district. She was previously assistant principal of Harrison School, principal of Panorama Middle School and the district director of secondary curriculum, instruction and assessment.

Domangue earned a doctorate in achievement and motivational theories in education from Louisiana State University, and maintains principal and administrative endorsements from the Colorado Department of Education.

regan.foster@southeastexpress.org

 

WHAT IT MEANS

Three finalists are in the running for the right to serve as dual superintendent at Harrison School District Two (D2). The model has been in practice on an interim basis since May 2018, and the final two — who have yet to be named — will be the first of their kind in the state.

The finalists, as chosen from a field of 31 hopefuls, are: D2 Co-Chief Operating Officer Wendy Birhanzel; D2 Co-Chief Operating Officer John Rogerson; and University of Northern Colorado Associate Professor Elizabeth Domangue.

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